The Case of the Disappearing Reviews #BadZon

I had heard the rumors, read the new Amazon Terms of Service and their policies regarding reviews, and knew eventually they’d come for my meager collection.

Well, today (or sometime last night) the stealth review nazis hit me, stripping at least one review from several of my titles. And those happened to be by book bloggers who’d participated in book tours for those titles. That made it easy to identify which reviews went missing and why.

Book blog tours are hosted by services for whom authors pay a small fee to organize dates, arrange for bloggers, disseminate interview questions, posts, links, etc. The participating bloggers can choose from a list of options, one of which might include a review of the book, which is offered free to the interested party. It is by no means mandatory and there’s no obligation—sometimes they say they will and they don’t—and there’s definitely no expectation of a sterling review. Book bloggers tend to be honest and fair, expressing their opinions without prejudice (other than their own preferences, likes, dislikes, what-have-you).

To paint the book tours and the bloggers with a single brush, calling them “paid reviews” or accusing them of having a “relationship” with the author, is ludicrous. And ultimately that will damage an author’s ability to be discovered because reviews and rankings are how we navigate the minefield that we know as Amazon.

I guess if I had 102 reviews for a title and lost one… no biggee. But I had 15 for a title that’s been favorably received and very favorably reviewed. Now it’s 14. And the ranking plummeted.

pessimistFor a recent book, the first in a series, a book blogger issued an amazing review that will never make it to the Zon. There was no tour, no fees exchanged hands. She picked it up on her own. She loved it, she got it. It’s HERE.

I’ve charted a steady decline in sales as Amazon continues to gut my ability to find and keep an audience, and there’s fuck all I can do about it. If I dare to complain, at best I’m ignored, and at worst I can have my account deleted and my only viable sales venue gone with the wind.

I posted to Facebook a few days ago: “I used to be an author…”

It’s coming 4 months since I wrote anything other than reviews for GGR-Reviews and a few blog posts.

Write for yourself is the admonition.

Well, OK, but why?

13335855_959797804136602_641352244266747879_nI already have the stories in my head. I’ve already established a Voice, a Style, a Narrative Literary approach to storytelling. I’ve accepted I’m not for everyone. I’m content with the audience I’ve found… bless them all, the ones who get me. I adore you, you are my tribe.

But, I’ll admit… it’s depressing and I dunno what to do about it.

My reality is that writing is both a creative outlet AND a commercial venture. I invest in editors, book cover designers, stock images, advertising. The costs are substantial. The time investment—while difficult to document—is also substantial, involving sacrifices and a commitment of resources and energy for which the ROI is frequently of the “not worth it” kind.

6836951590_b0ae362309_oAnd I’m not even going to rant about expectations I give it away for free or heavily discount because… special snowflakes, entitlement, it’s the internet and everything SHOULD BE FREE and it’s just a book after all and everybody’s got a book in them, and the market’s flooded…

Nope, not going there. There’s only so much this old broad can take in a day.

And dammitalltohellandgone…

They were 5* reviews, but of course.

And it’s not so much… do I want or not want to write? No, it’s worse than that.

I’m not sure I care anymore.

To those of you fighting this fight… peace. I hope you find your answers and your Muse.

 

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Will Wonders Never Cease!

Today, for the first time in weeks, I think I might live.

No, wait…

Even better… I think I might want to!

ANGEL WINGS Wallpaper__yvt2I had no idea just how bad pneumococcal pneumonia could be, how it strips you of energy and leaves you gasping for a breath… gawd, just one, please!… and how your body aches and your ribs bruise from the violence of the coughing jags.

Sleep? What’s that?

Then there’s the fix—the cure and the curse of antibiotics and prednisone that made me feel like Wonder Woman at the same time it played my weakened immune system false. The pred took away all the RA pain and swelling. I could move like a normal person, no longer counting myself lucky to have simply gotten out of bed.

dancing-for-joyBut then, the dosage tapered, the symptoms returned. Not just returned… but boomeranged with vicious enthusiasm, trapping me once more in the consequences of having suffered through several bouts with Lyme disease.

I’ll be honest, it’s depressing.

But last night, ah… last night I slept through the night, cough-free, huddled under blankets as the temp dipped into the upper forties. And this morning—this lovely gorgeous, bright day filled with sunshine—gives me hope once more.

I’m one of those people with a disability you can’t see… unless I move, or you take note of the joints on my right hand, or I let slip I’m in pain.

But today is a GOOD DAY! I’ll take it and run with it. Well, maybe I’ll hobble with enthusiasm, but little victories are still victories after all.

To all of you out there with these invisible illnesses, blessings and love.

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TWENTY Times Tempted #BoxSet #CoverReveal #ThunderClap

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I am delighted to announce the coming launch of a fabulous collection of contemporary romances by some of the hottest authors in the genre!

Twenty full length novels, more than a MILLION WORDS of sigh-worthy reading pleasure.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, the Twenty Times Tempted box set authors are going on tour! We need blog spots and will be giving away a $20 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn host. If you have a blog, we’re looking for spots between the 29th August – 2nd September. Please consider signing up as we’ll be having a big giveaway too.

If you’d like to spread the love and support some of your favorite and soon-to-be-favorite authors, please support our THUNDERCLAP campaign!

Or you can spread the word to your GOODREADS friends and followers!

Included in this collection is my very own sports romance, POINTS ON A CURVE:

Points-on-a-Curve-revised-2She’s got the wingspan, he’s got the nose for news. Together it’s a match made on and off the court.

Taylor O’Brien has a checkered past—a former darling of the European Women’s Basketball circuit, she made a few bad choices along the way, mostly falling for a con man who managed to ruin her career and sent her back home to the States with her tail between her legs.

But Tay is no quitter. She vows to turn her life around by enrolling at NYU, even if that means being single and lonely in the Big Apple. What Tay never counted on was her best friend setting her up with younger brother Robb, a sports journalist who has the resources to dig into the particulars of her disgrace. It is definitely not a match made in heaven.

It takes all of Tay’s skills she’s learned on the court to deflect Robb’s nose for a story and keep him from going for the slam dunk. When they finally go head-to-head in the paint, Tay shows Robb that the best offense is sometimes a good defense, even if that means going man-to-man.

The TBR Pile says: “Her wit made me laugh out loud, and her flare for description had me fully immersed from the first page. It’s been awhile since I read such fully fleshed out characters. Once the action kicked in I could not put it down. The connection between Rob and Taylor was electric when they were together.”

Look for TWENTY TIMES TEMPTED, coming August 29, 2016 to Amazon. It will also be available on KINDLE UNLIMITED.

Peace to all… and happy reading!

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A Blizzard of Unwanted Author Newsletters #Rant

Holy Stop the Presses, Get Me Off This Damn Newsletter Deluge, Batman!

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Out of nowhere, two of my email accounts were inundated with FREE! LAUNCH! NEW! UPCOMING! READ MORE! All from authors I never heard of, writing in a variety of genres, all reeking of desperation to be noticed, loved, appreciated and… recognized!

After the first dozen or so, I came to the conclusion I must have inadvertently clicked on something or other during one of those Book Blasts or Launch Parties authors and their fans run in Facebook.

All of the newsletters appear to be powered by mailchimp. They’re fairly standard, with visuals and links that look and act cookie-cutter-ish. I’ve seen worse.

bigstockphoto_hammer_striking_nail_w_sparks_333329But what I’ve not seen so aggressively shoved down throats is the relentless tactic of reeling a potential reader in by offering up a boatload of free content. Invariably there are series, lots and lots of series, and numero uno is always FREE. Fine. Your book, your decision to give away your hard work. But beyond that, if you follow the link to their websites, these authors are also offering up a dizzying selection of additional FREE content. Usually in PDF—which I won’t touch with a ten-foot-pole because… my laptop fried under the assault of a worm/virus/nasty-assed bug that rode in on a PDF.

For the last month, I’ve been averaging more than 12-15 newsletters per day. At first I deleted them, like you do. But then some of the authors’ newsletters reappeared, asking why I wasn’t taking them up on their generous offer and didn’t I realize I was missing out… yada yada yada.

Talk about cheek!

0ae5764f93a6e1e85067f20fbea114bcbe774b4ea3c2abbdf0b442f2084dd59aAt that point, I looked for the “unsubscribe” button, which isn’t always readily apparent, depending on the newsletter layout. I came across a few where it simply wasn’t there!

Yeah, that’s smoke coming outa mah ears.

I know we’re told/instructed/advised that newsletters are THE NEXT BIG THING in author promotion, that direct mailings GUARANTEE SUCCESS AND NAME RECOGNITION AND PLUG DIRECTLY INTO A READER’S CEREBRAL CORTEX, AFFECTING THE BALANCE OF THE UNIVERSE… AND SALES!

Whew, sorry bout dat!

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I’ve had to spend time I can ill afford to hunt down and unsubscribe, one newsletter at a time, up to 15 per day, and It. Never. Effing. Stops.

A few things:

  1. I am so damn alienated you can bet yore bippy I’m never ever gonna buy a book from one of those authors, because… subcategory a) I’m foaming at the mouth incensed at having to deal with this deluge of unwanted, unsolicited garbage, and also…
  2. Why should I buy when every damn thing is FREE?
  3. I am NEVER going to participate in a Facebook book event ever again. Sorry, but once burned…
  4. I PROMISE to never ever do a newsletter and inflict this level of hubris and narcissism on my own set of loyal readers. Y’all know where I am (right here, so if you want to see what’s new, check out the book carousal >>> or the tabs up there ^^^^ or *gasp* a post!)

This, and Facebook’s newsfeed that disabled Ad Blocker+, resulting in a stream 75% cluttered with ads—for fucking games and all manner of crap—means I’ve just about had it with social media.

And yes, I’m still coughing, but not quite as badly… thanks for asking.

To close off, I usually say… Peace and Goodwill and Be Kind… but…

Today ain’t that kinda day.

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Avoided a close call

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Sending love and thanks to all my friends who threatened to physically haul me to the doctor if I didn’t voluntarily go on my own.

Turns out my symptoms totter on the edge of pneumococcal pneumonia (extreme fatigue, fever, difficulty breathing/wheezing, terrible cough). Bingo. The x-rays showed the lungs about 2/3’s clouded. I was put on a short acting bronchodilator to open the passageways, given scripts for prednisone, antibiotics and an inhaler to control the wheezing, and an appointment to come back in a month after more blood work (urine sample looked suspicious).

I asked about mowing, spreading manure—like country girls do—and got a “probably not” in response. I was also warned I’d feel significantly better quickly, but don’t let that fool me as this isn’t going to be easy to shake if I overdo.

Despite my modus operandi of ignoring most medical advice, I will honestly try to follow instructions this time. This… whatever *this* is… came out of nowhere, during the summer when I never, ever get sick, and hit me like a freight train. I can pin some of it to age and a general lowering of my immune system, but not all.

13903188_1366844833344524_5412257739282222541_nMeantime Ro is worried about me and feeling guilty about leaving me alone to handle the farm duties while Team Czar is in Maine. She also gave me strict instructions to leave the mowing and yard work to her, she’ll handle it when she gets back.

Sigh. I love being coddled, I hate being coddled.

Since I got a solid four hours of sleep in between coughing jags last night (the “productive” kind where you actually hack up the crap), I’m feeling downright chipper this morning. The assault on my system from the antibiotics has already begun but I have a plan—head to the grocery store for yogurt and to the health food store for pro-bi.

And once the grass/weeds/what-the-heck-is-that-stuff dries, Deere John and I might take an hour’s spin and do small sections at a time. I will *not* spread manure—I may not be the brightest light, but I ain’t stupid.

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Already I’ve fed the Bobster and harvested tomatoes, hauled a couple of buckets of water to the zucchini patch and tackled a few housekeeping tasks. It’s good to be able to breathe.

Meantime, take care of yourselves. Sometimes your body says “I got this” and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve finally learned to listen to friends. I’m working on the body part.

Peace and a good harvest to all!

 

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Down for the count

I’ve caught the summer crud, or whatever variation of flu or cold, lurgies, you-name-it, that has brought so many folks low. I got the cough portion of the entertainment—uncontrolled, hard-hitting to the point where my ribs and back ache, and my head’s gonna explode (kinda wish it would, put me out of my misery).

Sleeping? Not happening. Eating? 48 hours without and counting. Making deals with the devil? Oh yeah, baby. Right now I’ll do anything not to cough!

It’s bad enough I’m heading to the doctor today to see if there are any heavy duty meds that will knock me out for a time.

Except, this week Team Czar is in Maine doing a 5-day Pioneer Ride (5 days, 30 or 50 miles each day… go Team!) so Mom’s got to take care of Mr Bob, the hens and kidlets, Herself, the budgies, and Tom the garage cat. So twice a day I head (crawl, wheeze, cry) to the barn to do chores and feed things.

To make matters worse, the garden requires my attention: tomatoes, eggplant, cukes ‘n zukes… all need watering, harvesting and canning/freezing during this put up time of year. Not to mention mowing, weeding…

And forget writing, which is a shame because I’d planned to get back to at least one of the WiPs that’s been bugging me lately. Oh well…

Thank goodness for audiobooks. I can listen to review and give my eyes a break (that headache is a real bone crusher).

But on the upside, Herself is taking care of me..

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So, here’s wishing y’all good health, a measure of peace, and some relaxing downtime during these dog days of summer.

In case you’re out beach combing, I heard some interesting things washed up on shore recently…

 

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Hearing someone narrate your words… it’s like… #magic

It wasn’t an easy decision to dip a toe in the world of audiobooks, mostly because of the expense involved and the complicated process of finding just the right voice to do justice to the characters.

But it’s more than that.

There’s a rhythm and cadence to storytelling that’s unique for each author. We call it “voice” for lack of a better term and when I sought a narrator for Curling Iron, I needed someone who could do more than just deliver the words on the page. I needed someone who could breathe life into the characters, who could pull the listener into a bubble of intimacy where you hang on every word, knowing… feeling it… at a visceral level.

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The audition process was easier than I had anticipated, mostly because I’d just listened to and reviewed Sunset Park (Santino Hassel) narrated by Michael Ferraiuolo. Since I’d already read (and loved loved loved) the book, I was able to concentrate on how the narrator was able to infuse each and every character with a very distinctive and spot on voice. In addition, Michael accurately captured the accents and patterns of speech that are so familiar to me, and by-the-by just happen to be exactly what I needed to tell David and Kane’s story.

Imagine my excitement when Michael said yes to narrating Curling Iron (and potentially the rest of the series), then imagine my nervous anticipation when Chapter 1 arrived for my approval.

I listened… I swooned… I sent Little Miss Mayhem running for cover as I screeched for joy.

Yeah, that’ll do.

031b4a28fa63f640ca7d97a435717905Michael nailed Charlie, the club owner with the gruff voice and a no nonsense Brooklyn ‘tude and David, with his insecurities, his back against the wall demeanor and wry sense of humor.

I haz a happy.

Now I can’t wait for Kane to come to life, to hear that suave, sophisticated veneer get ripped to shreds. And that POS, sanctimonious low life, asshat Marshall. And scarier than shit Michael.

And the scenes of affection… oh lordy, those…

Whew.

And in case y’all are curious, you can read Curling Iron, (Book 1 in the Bad Boyfriends series) for 99c, available at these fine retailers:

Kindle    |    ALL ROMANCE/OmniLit    |    B&N    |    Kobo

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Reviews ‘n Recs: A Hot Summer of #MM #GoodReads

This summer I’ve lucked out on a bonanza of outstanding genre and literary fiction reads.

Whatever you’re looking for—a feel good romance, a hit of suspense, a frisson of fear, or having your world go askew—one of these authors can provide exactly what you’re in the mood for.

In no particular order:

MARSHALL THORNTON

Marshall Thornton has the unique ability to mix humor, pathos and a fine sense of drama, cut through with action and a soupcon of suspense in his Boystown Series. The latest is Boystown 8: The Lies That Bind staring a PI with enough character flaws to get your blood pumping. Although the series is best read in order, this one has a standalone quality that will satisfy, but why not treat yourself to a truly excellent series? Review HERE.

Also making my list of all time favorite reads is FEMME—a tour de force of humor and sharp observations about the human condition and the differences that can unite us. This book will take you to your happy place. It certainly took me to mine. Review HERE.

BEY DECKARD

Bey Deckard’s Kestral’s Talon (The Stonewatchers) brings together magical realism, myth and legend, all mixing and mingling with elements of fantasy, action-adventure, and increasingly difficult high-stakes games of politics and survival. This story is epic in scope and brilliant in execution. Review HERE.

SANTINO HASSEL

I’ve recommended the Five Boroughs Series in other posts (Sutphin Boulevard, Sunset Park, First and First) but recently I had an opportunity to listen to the audiobook version of Sunset Park, narrated by Michael Ferraiuolo. I loved reading the book, but to hear the voices—so distinct, so well done—it really elevated the experience to a level I wouldn’t have thought possible. In a word… I was mesmerized. Review HERE.

SUSAN MAC NICOL

I am a huge fan of Susan’s Men of London series (along with everything else Susan has written – she’s an auto-buy for me). Her recent Hard Climate was exceptional in that it hit all the right bullet points: great characters, just enough angst, a close call and a wonderful, heartwarming ending. Review HERE.

DEIDRE O’DARE

Deirdre is a new-to-me author and boy howdy, was I ever glad I discovered her. She rocks a short story—The Mule Man—like few authors I’ve encountered: compelling characters, tight knit plot, character growth and development, a balance of description and dialog that provides page turner narrative flow and most important—a doggone rousing story filled with authentic details, location-location-location, and two leads who captured my heart and had me rooting for them from the get go. Review HERE.

MARTIN POUSSON

This is for you literary fiction aficionados. Black Sheep Boy: A Novel in Stories is a stunning literary achievement. The command of language, the exquisite literary flow, the raw images… all simply brought me to my knees. This is a coming of age journey of discovery in a world not designed for you and others like you. It will enrapture and enrage, it will bring you to tears. Of everything I’ve read… ever… this book shall forever hold a very special place in my heart. Review HERE.

Well, there you have it. Lots of good reading to wile away those dog days of summer.

Wishing you peace and love.

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The Joy of Catharsis

Adding new dimensions to who you are…

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Black and white photograph of a woman in a white dress lying on train tracks, for The Joy of Catharsis by Malin James Photograph by Marco Sanges (2011)

I’m kind of an emotional junkie. Whether due to empathy, sensitivity or maladaptation, I tend to feel emotion (both mine and other people’s) really intensely and, every now and then, I like putting myself in the position of feeling something to a nearly painful degree (hello inner sadist).

That said, I prefer the experience to be self-inflicted – breaking my own heart of one thing. Having it broken by someone else is another….unless that someone is a book.

If a book breaks my heart (or makes me giggle until I cry; or scares me so badly that I’m afraid of my own bed), I will love it hard. I will also be really impressed – any author who can effect my cortisol levels is an author I respect.

It’s to do with catharsis. Life requires that I maintain an even emotional keel, which is good…

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Don’t be a Dick

Having been the object of hateful bile on Goodreads, boy howdy I do relate to this. The only difference: I’m not ready to quit. Learn yes, quit no.

Whitney Dineen

#dontbeadick

I’ve recently stumbled into a bit of controversy in my career as a romantic comedy author. A couple of months ago I released an much anticipated sequel to a bestselling book. As a result, some of my fans are infuriated with me, as in spitting, hock-a-loogie mad. As in, “I’m never reading your books again, you horrible woman…” irate.

Every author receives negative views, it’s expected. It’s almost a rite of passage to get your first 1-star review on a new release. Yet I’ve noticed a trend lately. There’s a new nastiness to reviews that didn’t seem to exist before social media became our “go-to” avenue of communication. It’s been a human characteristic since Aesop– familiarity breeds contempt.

Once upon a time, when the only way to communicate with an author, was to write them a letter and send it to their publisher, people didn’t unleash their vitriol so freely…

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